21 E. Main Street,
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CAPA Columbus -- Southern Theatre (Official)
Firms: Dauben, Krumm & Riebel, Yost & Packard
Functions: Performing Arts
Previous Names: Great Southern Opera House, Towne Cinema
News About This Theater
The Great Southern Theatre is the only remaining 19th Century theatre in Columbus. It opened on September 21, 1896 with the comedy burlesque stage production of “In Gay New York”. It took close to three years of planning and construction (the adjoining Southern Hotel opened the following summer). It boasts the architectural influence of 19th Century geniuses Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. It was constructed of “fireproof” brick, tile, iron, concrete and steel (since most other theatres in the downtown had been previously destroyed by fire). Being a very modern structure, it was one of the first commercial buildings in Columbus to have electricity (which it produced itself).
In the early-1910’s, a section of the upper balcony was removed to install a projection booth. It was used as a live performance and movie theatre until 1931 when it became a full-time movie house named Southern Theatre. It was renamed Towne Cinema on December 22, 1972 screening Blaxploitation movies, the first being Robert Hooks in “Trouble Man”. It stayed open until 1979 when years of neglect forced its closing.
The movement to restore the Ohio Theatre 30 years ago helped the Southern Theatre receive public support for its own restoration. After over a year of restoration, it reopened its doors on September 26, 1998 and now hosts a variety of performances.
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Recent comments (view all 22 comments)
The current seating in the Southern is 925, according to the CAPA website.
how did it get reduced by half?
If you live in or visit Columbus, this theatre boasts wonderful acoustics. I have seen various types of live performance here over the last 15 years: small-scale musicals, chamber music, full orchestras, rock music and was lucky enough to have seen the Lynn Redgrave performance in “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2006. It is also a very beautiful theatre, perhaps the most tasteful and elegant in all of Columbus. Take someone you love to hear good music in a lovely setting!
Great history of this theatre,good to see it still open.
Attributed architects as Yost & Packard of Dayton
In the late 1960s/early 1970s, The Southern Theatre ran second run triple features at very low ticket prices. The triple features included features that had limited or no previous bookings in the area such as “The Invisible Dr. Mabuse,” “Dark Eyes of London” and the gore films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. I drove to Columbus many times to spend a Sunday afternoon watching a triple feature at the Southern.
Grand opening ad posted.
This reopened as the Towne Cinema on December 22nd, 1972 showing Blaxploitation films. Grand opening ad posted.
My recollection is that the Towne name did not last very long before going back to being the Southern.